In some respects, 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai is just like any other college student. She blushes at talk of dating, finds the curriculum at Oxford University challenging, and can’t resist teasing her younger brothers at the dinner table. But don’t let this soft-spoken Pakistani girl fool you: she’s a lion-hearted, Nobel-prize-winning champion of girls’ education.
Malala was born in the picturesque Swat Valley of Pakistan in 1997. The child of a school owner and educational activist, her father wanted her to have every opportunity a boy would have. He vowed his daughter would attend school and be treated with equality.
“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”When Mullah Fazhulla’s radio broadcasts first echoed down the concrete and steel canyons of Malala’s hometown of Mingora in 2004, the people believed the changes were for the good. But, as the Taliban’s influence grew, their order affected every aspect of the citizen’s lives. The Taliban blacked the women’s faces from billboards. They burned televisions, computers, and CDs in the streets. They murdered policeman and bombed police stations. They staged public executions. And, in December 2008, they issued an edict banning girls from going to school.While other students stayed home–fearful of school bombings–11-year old Malala became an undercover BBC blogger. By age 14, the otherwise demure girl was publicly campaigning for girls’ education.
Her courage did not escape the Taliban’s notice. In 2012, they targeted the 15-year-old activist. Masked gunmen boarded her school bus, demanded her by name, and attempted to execute Malala with a gunshot to the forehead.
Her story could have ended there, but it was only the beginning of more influential work. Not only did she recover from traumatic brain injury, she went on to address the United Nations within the year. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel prize.
Humble and hardworking, today she balances college life while still leading the fight for girls’ education via the Malala Fund.
How She’s Courageous
“With guns, you can kill terrorists. With education, you can kill terrorism.”As if standing up to the Taliban were not enough, Malala remains an unflinching champion of good.
When sitting down with Barack Obama in 2013, she politely thanked the United States for all they’d done to support education for women and girls. She went on to inform him that his drone attacks were fueling terrorism, and that the US should instead focus efforts on education.
How Her Courage Affects Others
When girls are deprived of an education, the world is deprived of their gifts.Worldwide, more than 130 million girls do not attend school due to war, violence, and poverty.
Educating girls can end the cycle of poverty. Educated girls live longer and their own children live healthier lives. Education boosts overall economic growth and contributes to restoring peace and stability.
The Malala Fund is dedicated to every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. The non-profit foundation and has helped girls from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Syria.
How She’s Affected Me
Malala’s courage makes my own heart swell with possibility. If one brave girl can do this, what can any girl do? What can all girls do?
You can learn more about Malala below: